According to belief, Toshigami, the god of the new year, harvests and spirits of ancestors arrives when the sun rises on New Year’s Day. If you stand outside and make a wish during the sunrise, you will be blessed by Toshigami and your dream will come true.
Whether you believe that or not, seeing the sun rise on New Year’s Day in Japan is indeed something special — if you can see the sunrise that is! Many people say that the view of the dawn from the summit of Mt. Fuji is the absolute best place for hatsuhinode, but there are dozens of incredible places to see it all across Japan. Here are my top five picks for hatsuhinode spots across Japan.
1. Tokyo Skytree (Sunrise 6:46 a.m.)
It’s the tallest tower in in the world and during its special Jan. 1 opening hours (5:30 to 7:30 a.m.), 892 lucky visitors can enjoy taking in the sight of the first sunrise over Tokyo. Tickets cost ¥7,000 but grant full access to the facility. The spots on the entry list are chosen by lottery, however, so if you want to enter — you should definitely hurry! According to past guests at this event, it’s a good idea to dress somewhat more formally than you otherwise might — it’s not a black tie affair, by any means, but it is better to err on the side of formality. There are often women and men in fine kimono that gather here, so wearing pajamas is probably a bad idea, even if you have stayed up all night.
2. Ryugatake, Yamanashi Prefecture (Sunrise 6:48 a.m.)
Another mountain, Ryugatake only takes an hour or so to climb from its parking area and grants visitors a 360-degree view of Suruga Bay, the Izu Peninsula, Yatsugetake and the Southern Alps — plus exclusive views of “Diamond Fuji“: when the sun sits atop Mt. Fuji like a diamond in a ring. Make sure to dress for the weather — a heavy coat and layered clothing, winter quality hiking boots, a hat and mittens or gloves are a must. You may also want to bring extra kairo (pocket warmers) too, just to be on the safe side (available at most conbini).
3. Yoshimine Temple, Kyoto Prefecture (Sunrise 7:02 a.m.)
Located in western Kyoto, Yoshimine Temple stands on Nishiyama, overlooking the city. Famous for its five-storied pagoda and it appearance in the Hollywood movie, Memoirs of a Geisha, here you can enjoy the sight of the sun rising over the horizon with the temple to your left. It’s a popular photography spot though, so if you want to get the best view, arrive early. Make sure to wear proper hiking boots, too, as the hillside steps can be a bit slippery if you’re not careful.
4. Goryokaku Tower, Hakodate, Hokkaido Prefecture (Sunrise 7:02 a.m.)
The star-shaped, five-pointed fort in Hakodate is another great place to see a truly Japanese sunrise. Although it’s a popular cherry blossom spot in the spring, Goryokaku is breathtakingly beautiful when covered in snow, and as the sunrises, it becomes a sparkling panorama of light. Admission for hatsuhinode is ¥840 for adults, ¥630 for junior and senior high school students, and ¥420 for elementary school children and under. It should go without saying, but as this spot is in Hokkaido, you should dress for the weather.
5. Manazuru Hanto, Ashigarashimo, Kanagawa Prefecture (Sunrise 6:50 a.m.)
I had to include this spot — it’s my favorite and one that I visit whenever I can for hatsuhinode. Part of the Manazuru Hanto Prefectural Natural Park, from the cape you can watch the first sunrise of the year appear between the Mitsuishi, or sacred rocks off the coast, where the sun rises right over the shimenawa (sacred rope) that connects these massive rocks. Be prepared though — this spot is exceptionally popular with the locals, so you should plan to arrive around two to three hours early if you are coming by car, and make sure to dress warmly. The ocean breezes from here make it feel as though it is 20 degrees colder than it really is on particularly windy days, so check the weather forecast before you go.
If you’re planning on spending New Year’s Eve in Japan, why not treat yourself to a unique traditional experience and stay up to greet the first sunrise of 2018 at one of these amazing spots?